Mozambique: Renamo Gunmen in Inhambane Reject Ossufo Momade

Renamo leader Ossufo Momade.

Maputo — Gunmen of Mozambique's former rebel movement Renamo in the southern province of Inhambane have declared that they will not hand over their weaponry, although they are obliged to do so under the agreement signed on 6 August between President Filipe Nyusi and Renamo leader Ossufo Momade.

Interviewed by the German agency DW Africa, Joao Machava, who claims the rank of colonel, said he commands 300 men at the Matokose base, in the Inhambane district of Funhalouro, and that they have "lots of weapons".

Machava is effectively number two in the dissident group which calls itself the "Renamo Military Junta", and has appeared alongside the leader of the Junta, Mariano Nhongo, in the press conferences he has given.

Machava claimed that Momade has violated earlier agreements reached by his predecessor, Afonso Dhlakama, with the government, and demanded that he resign.

When Momade became leader "he destroyed the party", Machava continued, "and so we demand a new President, who must respect the clauses in the dossier that President Dhlakama left". (This demand is somewhat odd, since the Junta has already "elected" Nhongo as the new leader of the party).

Machava accused Momade of leading to disaster people who had suffered in the bush with Dhlakama. "We don't accept this", he said. "If Momade does not resign from the party leadership, he must accept the consequences".

He said the Junta would not form an "independent force", separate from Renamo - although, in reality, this is what they already are.

"We are committed to peace", said Machava, "but with armed men in the bush, the country does not yet have the peace it desires. And the men in the bush don't want Ossufo. It's enough for Ossufo to leave the leadership, and a new President will be elected. Then we shall hand over our guns to the government".

To date, nobody knows for sure how many of Renamo's militia remain loyal to Momade, and how many support the Junta.

Machava's claim that his unit is 300 strong should arouse some scepticism. Funhalouro is an arid, sparsely populated district in the Inhambane interior, and it would be a logistical headache to ensue enough food and water for a force of 300.

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